Today we are going to start with a couple of questions: what is John’s obsession with cities all about? And why, for John, does it seem like cities are mostly a bad thing?
Sure, very early on in his book he introduced the city of God, the new Jerusalem, which is obviously a good city. But his very first mention of a city in Revelation was negative: he talked about the city where Satan lives. And when we look back through the book, we see that “the holy city” of Jerusalem has only been mentioned twice so far, whereas “the great city” — the unholy city — has been mentioned eleven times. And “the great city” has been given a bunch of different names: Sodom, Egypt, unholy Jerusalem, Babylon the Great and even Rome.
What does John have against cities? Is he just a kampung boy at heart, is that it?
Well, no. John’s visions and his mindset were deeply guided by the Old Testament. And the Old Testament is pretty obsessed with cities as mostly a bad thing.
For instance, the very first city mentioned by name in the bible was built by Cain, the first murderer. And it quickly becomes clear that Cain’s city was designed to consume the earth’s resources in order to feed itself, in order to turn itself into a major controlling center of agriculture, manufacture, and worship, all centered around men who have set themselves up as god-kings. And Genesis makes it clear that, as Cain’s city grew up into a great, all-consuming civilization, the violence of its wars also increased until God had to intervene and put a stop to it.
But at that point — if we were reading through Genesis together — we would realize Cain’s city is not actually the first city mentioned in the bible, it is merely the first man-made city. The first city on earth was actually a garden planted by God. And unlike Cain’s city, which was designed to consume the life of the earth, God’s garden city was designed to spend itself in order to bring life to the earth. The garden in the land of Eden was actually God’s idea of a perfect city on a perfect mountain; Cain’s city in the land of Nod was a deliberately inverted counterfeit.
So it is not as if the concept of a city is essentially bad; what matters is who built the city and why.
And this overall point just continues to be made from there onward: every man-made city named in the Book of Genesis — except one, the city of Salem! — is seen as a consuming center of violence, slavery and confusion, beginning with the Tower of Babel, passing through the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and ending up in Egypt.
Basically, by the end of the first book of the bible, we should already have the very strong idea that — in God’s opinion — gathering large groups of people together into one centralized place under a god-like human government is generally bad for creation and bad for people.
So, if man-made cities are so obviously bad for us and for the earth, why do we keep on making them?
Well, way back in Chapter 11 of Genesis, the people who built the Tower of Babel actually tell us why we love building cities. God had told them to multiply and expand and use their resources to fill the earth with more complete life. Instead, they said, “No la! Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves!”
Ambition is why we keep on building cities. We have always understood that if we decentralize our resources in order to feed creation then we are going to have to rely on God to protect us and provide for us. But if we centralize our resources, forcing creation to feed us instead, then we never need to worry about going hungry or being attacked — we won’t need God anymore. We will finally be free to do whatever we want!
— at least, until God interferes. Which he always does!
And here, again, how God interferes is most clearly demonstrated at the Tower of Babel. The great kings from the East gathered the nations together to the place that in Hebrew is called the Plain of Shinar, so they could build a man-made counterfeit copy of God’s holy garden-city. But no sooner did they put their plans into action than God came down and confused their language. They had refused to listen to God’s Word, so in response God said, “Fine! If good communication is not a skill you feel you need, I am going to take my gift back and pass it on to someone who wants it!” He removed the last thing that kept people from completely hating and devouring one another…and he let human nature take its course. Which it did: the entire program collapsed and the nations were scattered over the face of the whole earth.
This did not stop them from building cities, of course. In fact, we could summarize the Old Testament like this: people keep trying to centralize power by building cities; God keeps knocking them down and decentralizing their power so they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.
But by the end of the Old Testament — if we were to read through it together — we would notice another pattern in play: every time people rebuild what God knocks down, they do it bigger, better, stronger. Cities grow into kingdoms; kingdoms grow into nations; nations combine into empires, and empires start consuming one another: Assyria is swallowed by Babylon, which is swallowed by Persia, which is swallowed by Greece, which is swallowed by Rome.
And now, here, at the end of the New Testament, John has been telling us that one day this pattern will reach its apex: all of the great cities of the past are going to be spiritually reincarnated and united into the most monstrous city of all: Babylon the Great.
This is the point John has been making with all his talk about Babylon the Great over the last few chapters. Really, his visions have just drawn from the history of mankind as the bible has already told it, and then projected that history into the future. Beginning with the Tower of Babel, scripture has outlined how every succeeding empire in history has been more and more urbanised, more and more organized, and therefore more and more powerful, until history reached a peak with Rome two thousand years ago. All the Book of Revelation has really added to this outline is how, after Rome’s fall, mankind will experience a relatively non-urbanised age for some unspecified period of time…followed by a brief period of massive, global urbanisation that will be like every single ancient empire combined into one and then multiplied by a thousand! — which will then, suddenly, collapse in upon itself.
Now, it is interesting to note that modern social scientists have confirmed the bible’s vision of history:
We have been city-builders for a long time. The oldest ruins discovered so far date back about 10,000 years, and it is clear that those earliest cities were designed to be centers of agriculture, manufacture, and worship — just like Cain’s city.
But those cities were very small, just a few thousand people each. Our first truly great urban centers were built beside the Euphrates river in Babylonia, exactly where Genesis describes the Tower of Babel. The greatest of those cities reached a population of 80,000 before they collapsed through over-consumption and war.
But we learned from our mistakes in Babylonia. We improved our transportation technology, our communication technology, our economies of scale. We invented bureaucracy and paperwork — thereby proving that Satan does exist. With every cycle of rise and collapse, our urban centers were able to get larger. Cities in Egypt and China were the first to break through 100,000 people before collapsing. Ancient Babylon during King Nebuchadnezzar’s time eached 200,000 before it collapsed. A century later cities in India and China passed 300,000 for a brief period before collapsing back down below 100,000.
And it was during those centuries when the civilizations of India and China were in decline that Rome became the first city in history to break through 1,000,000 people. And she managed to hover around that size for about 400 years before — suddenly — collapsing back down to 50,000.
And then, for almost 1,500 years, global humanity experienced a relatively non-urbanized age. Everywhere on earth cities were small, populations averaging 100,000 or less. There were a few spikes here and there: a couple of cities in China made it to a million for a short while before collapsing like Rome had. But even in those places the urbanisation rate remained very low, meaning that a very low percentage of the overall population actually lived in those cities.
And the urbanisation rate is really the number we should pay closest attention to. Because, at the height of the Roman empire, 20% of the people lived in cities — and that was by far the most urbanised civilization that had ever existed, ten times more urbanized than Babylon. But after Rome’s collapse, for almost 1,500 years the global urbanization rate was only 3% — a relatively non-urbanised age, just as the Book of Revelation prophesied.
But about 500 years ago, the global urbanisation rate bumped to 4%, then 5, then 8, then 20% 100 years ago, back to ancient Roman levels. But today over 50% of the world’s population is urbanized, and scientists say we are going to pass the 70% mark within the next 30 years if things do not change. The human race has never enjoyed more centralized urban power than we do today: more than Rome, more than Babylon, more than every single ancient empire combined into one and then multiplied by a thousand!…exactly as the Book of Revelation prophesied.
And — oh! by the way, isn’t it interesting to notice how, just as our urbanisation rates started climbing, so did the violence of our wars? In fact, over the last century, didn’t we have two wars that we call “world” wars? It is almost as if some kind of evil spirits went out to the kings of the whole world and gathered them together for battle — twice! — so they could kill human beings by the hundreds of millions in a way that has never been accomplished before in the history of mankind.
It is almost enough to make us wonder if perhaps the peoples, multitudes, nations and languages of our world might actually secretly hate the prostitute who rides them, this rapidly urbanising, all-consuming civilization that we call Modernity, but John might call Babylon the Great…!
It is almost enough to make us wonder if there might someday be another war between the kings of the whole world, and whether that war really might be the last one. For sure, quite a few social scientists are expecting this: a global economic collapse, followed by a global war over the remaining resources, mixed in with our human tendency to blame one particular global social class for our problems, preferably a religious group of some kind, and when we look at the distribution of global religious groups there is only one group that is present in decent numbers in every nation on earth, and that would be the Christian faith…
But who knows, amirite?
This is what we know: the Book of Genesis tells us the Tower of Babel — the first great urbanised civilization — collapsed into the self-consuming judgement fires of civil unrest, civil war. The Book of Revelation has been telling us the final great urbanised civilization is also going to collapse into the self-consuming judgement fires of civil unrest, civil war.
That is what we discovered back in Chapter 17. It was basically the same ancient Tower of Babel story, but projected onto the end of our age: how the demonic kings from the East will gather the human kings of the whole world together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. They will have one purpose for centralizing their resources in this way: in order to set up a counterfeit city of God, and so wage war against the Lamb and against his called, chosen, and faithful followers. Like the builders of Babel’s tower, they want to silence God’s Word, they want to be free to do whatever they want!
— and at the end of Chapter 17 it turned out that, just like the ancient citizens of Babel, what the citizens of Babylon the Great want most of all is the freedom to devour one another along with the great, global, urbanised system they just built. So God let them. He removed the last thing that kept them from completely hating and devouring one another…and he let human nature take its course.
Okay. So then we turned to Chapter 18, expecting to find out what happens next — !
Only to find the action suddenly paused by another angel coming down from heaven that had great authority, declaring judgement upon Babylon. It was yet another interlude! designed to rewind events and give us another look at what just happened from another perspective.
And so for most of the last two chapters we have been treated to a hyper-detailed look at Babylon the Great: her character and her collapse and how God’s people are being called out from under the smoking ruins even as she sinks into the Abyss — just like God first drew Abraham’s family out from the ruins of Babel’s tower at the beginning of redemption history.
So now let’s keep reading and see where John’s visions take us next:  I saw heaven standing open, John says, and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.
Ah. Good! The interlude is over. Here the action is finally unpaused and picks up where it left off at the end of Chapter 17. Here we finally get to see what the end is going to look like.
And we can tell we are back to the story of the end because the last time John saw heaven standing open was back in Chapter 15, right at the end of the Cycle of the Seven Signs, when the seven angels with the seven last plagues came out to do their final destructive work. And that was also when John saw a king descending on a white cloud to harvest his people from the earth and then trample the rest in a winepress.
He also saw heaven standing open back in Chapter 11, right at the end of the Cycle of the Seven Trumpets, when God’s temple in heaven was opened, and there came lightning, thunder, an earthquake and a hailstorm — the same events we saw back in Chapter 8, at the end of the Cycle of the Seven Seals, when an angel came out of the temple to throw a bowlful of burning coals down upon the earth.
Every cycle so far has ended with heaven opened and God’s judgement descending in various forms. And now, here we are again:
 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.  He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.  The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.
And if you have been travelling with us through the Book of Revelation so far, you are already very familiar with all of these images, because they have all come up individually at various points throughout the cycles of judgement. So, to find all of these images combined here now in one brief passage means that this is John’s climactic summary of the Last Day. For instance:
The dragon wore seven crowns, the beast wore ten…but not any more: the king riding on the white horse has taken them for himself, he wears many crowns.
The woman riding on the beast wore her name openly on her forehead as a boast, a public invitation for all to come and commit adultery with her; the king on the white horse also wears a name — and his name is the Word of God — but this name is hidden from everyone except himself and his bride. In other words, his invitation to intimacy is a private invitation, extended only to those who long for a real relationship with him.
The woman on the beast had defiled herself by drinking the blood of God’s people; but the king on the white horse has not defiled himself with the blood of his enemies: his robes are stained red from battle, but he has not taken that poison within himself.
The false prophet gathered the kings of the whole world together to war against God and his people, but they ended up destroying one another; this king who is called Faithful and True has also gathered his own kings together to follow him riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean: his heavenly army is his perfected bride — but unlike the earthly bride of the beast, the bride of the king does not fight against herself.
In fact, she does not have to fight at all! because — just like the prophet Isaiah predicted — the king treads the winepress alone. He is the one who wields the sharp sword of God’s Word in this final battle. Yes, when his bride was on earth, she preached God’s Word and was silenced for it; but on the Last Day all that will be reversed: the rider alone will preach on behalf of his bride, and it is her enemies who will finally be silenced.
 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God,  so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”
There are going to be two suppers at the end of time. One is called the wedding supper of the Lamb, and only those who have accepted God’s free gift of a wedding dress will be there. Those who reject God’s invitation to that feast are going to find themselves at the other one — but instead of eating the main course there, they are going to be the main course.
But why is it “all the birds flying in midair” who are invited to eat at this terrible feast?
Well, we have already seen two previous echoes of this image: in Chapter 14 we saw an angel flying in midair, who had the eternal gospel to proclaim to every nation. Even earlier, in Chapter 8, we saw an eagle that was flying in midair, who cursed the nations for refusing to listen to the eternal gospel. And we realized that the eagle and the angel both were symbolic representatives of creation, the creation that has been so mercilessly consumed by urbanised mankind.
What we are seeing here is God’s perfectly balanced justice at work: creation has been consumed, so now creation will do the consuming. In the end, Babylon the Great is not just going to devour herself from the inside-out, she is going to be devoured from the outside-in. The creation she claimed to have total control over will rise up and settle upon her remains like birds over a battlefield.
 Then, John says, I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.
John’s visionary camera has just refocused back over here to remind us that this is the famous Battle of Armageddon we are talking about here.
 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
And that’s it. That is the end of the war. And really, it was not even a real battle, it was more like a harvesting, like we saw described back at the end of Chapter 14.
And this is really the final fulfillment of Daniel’s vision about the war at the end of time, in which he saw God seated upon a chariot of fire: its wheels were all ablaze, and a river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. As Daniel watched, the bestial kingdoms of the earth were captured and brought before God’s throne, put on trial, sentenced, and the greatest of them was thrown into the blazing fire.
Here, in John’s vision, the river of fire has produced a lake of fire, which is what rivers do. And, if the pattern of John’s vision continues to follow the pattern of Daniel’s vision, then we already know what must happen next: now that the dragon’s two beasts have been tried and condemned and discarded, now that the beast’s followers have all been killed, it is time for their souls to be brought before God’s throne one by one and judged according to what they consumed in this life.
…but we are going to have to come back next week for that.
But in the meantime: what is the lesson we are supposed to learn here?
Let’s try this: John is right to be obsessed with cities. Urbanisation is mostly a bad thing. In God’s opinion, gathering large groups of people together into one centralized place under a god-like human government is generally bad for creation and bad for people, and the bigger those urban centers become the worse the effects are.
That is a pretty good summary — of the whole bible, really!
But that makes us a bit uncomfortable, doesn’t it? Because we are an urban people living in the most urbanised generation that has ever existed. We all enjoy fresh running water, modern medicine, plenty of food. I don’t think any of us want to go back even 100 years to fetching water by hand and watching our children die of random fevers. And so when we hear things like, “In God’s opinion, urbanisation is mostly bad,” we have questions! Like: are you sure? And does this mean we should reject these modern amenities because they are the products of centralized human ambition? Is the bible saying it is a sin to centralize in cities, that all good Christians should really choose to scatter into small kampungs all over the earth?
No. That would not work, because even kampungs depend upon cities for their existence: our entire global economy is urbanised now. There are very few people left on earth who are not connected in some way to the system. Basically, even though small-town people do not physically live in cities, spiritually speaking they really do. So just like the Christians who lived in the Roman empire of John’s time, we really have no choice but to live in this system as it stands.
Besides, John is not saying that modern amenities are necessarily bad. Yes, cities are natural centers of ambition, slavery, consumption and false worship. But by God’s great mercy, cities can also do good on the earth, because — if you recall — the original concept of the “city” was God’s idea. Now, mankind has taken that good idea and twisted it so that it serves us instead of creation; but God’s original code is still in there and it still shows up occasionally in good, life-sustaining things like clean water and medicine. We could almost say that, despite all of humanity’s efforts to be as selfish as possible, we keep on producing good things as an accidental side-effect. So:
No, we should not reject modern amenities as if they are automatically bad. Nor should we all go live in a kampung somewhere as if life in a city makes us automatically bad. Cities are made up of people. People are a mixture of good and bad. And therefore so are cities.
Okay. But then, why has John spent basically the entire second half of Revelation warning us to watch out for this great urbanisation that is destined to take place at the end of time? What does he want us to do about it?
Well, really, John has been saying there is nothing we can do about it. The great urbanization is inevitable; Babylon the Great is inevitable. We cannot stop her, we are not going to stop her. And in fact we should not want to stop her, because the rise of Babylon the Great at the end of time is really God’s way of giving people the freedom to pile their sins up to heaven, letting them condemn and destroy themselves by giving them all the centralized power they ever wanted, so they will definitely have no excuse on Judgement Day. And as we have seen, we Christians are going to be swallowed up by that urbanisation — we are being swallowed up by it, right now!
So John has not been warning us about urbanisation so we can resist it or run away from it, he has been warning us so we can resist being deceived by it.
This is why John is obsessed with writing to us about cities: because cities are not just centers of all-consuming power, they are also centers of all-consuming deception. Really, cities use their power to cover up the reality of their corruption, and the more powerful they become the more complete the deception. Cities turn the lands all around them into a wilderness, but then they centralize those stolen resources in order to dress themselves up in purple and scarlet, like the symbolic prostitute John was astonished by back in Chapter 17. In short: cities are dangerous because they are so deceptively seductive.
And the seduction of centralized power works in a very peculiar way, because it eventually turns into self-deception. Chapter 18 described the process for us: at first Babylon the Great dresses herself up like a queen and like a priestess because she wants to seduce kings into exchanging their power for pleasure. But eventually she begins to believe her own lie: in her heart she begins to boast, “I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow; I will never mourn.” In short: ”I am invincible!” And this false confidence eventually spreads to all her citizens.
From Genesis to Revelation, the bible sees two major sins at work in the cities of the world: the first is ambition, which is the foundation of every city, as we have already learned from the Tower of Babel. But when ambition is rewarded with success, it always grows into arrogance, the second major sin. All the way through the Old Testament prophets, the thing that God condemns again and again about the cities of our world is their arrogance, this idea that “I am big! I am beautiful! Not even God can touch this!”
And we can see these truths clearly at work in our urbanised world today: our most beautiful cities are the ones that have managed to rob the lands furthest away from themselves. That way the citizens who live in those cities see only the beauty of their own surroundings, they can sit around congratulating themselves on how refined and civilized and ecologically conscious they are because they are totally and willfully ignorant of the human and environmental damage their society has done on the other side of the world.
The thing John has been telling us, with more and more urgency over the last few chapters, is that we Christians must be on our guard against falling into the arrogance of urbanisation. Because we can! And the clearest example of this kind of fall is found in the church of Laodicea:
Laodicea was one of the seven Asian churches that Jesus spoke to back in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. She was a major center of agriculture, manufacturing and trade. She was home to a medical school for eye-doctors. She was a banking city., and the citizens of Laodicea were so rich that, when their city was destroyed in an earthquake, they refused Rome’s financial help and rebuilt the entire city with their own money.
But for all that, Laodicea was really nothing special. There were no special landmarks nearby, no tourist attractions, no centers of pilgrimage. They had never won or lost any important historic battles. They had never produced any famous or important people. If the city was famous for anything, really it was famous for its bad tasting water, which they had to pipe in from the mountains several kilometers away.
In short, Laodicea was an arrogant city. The citizens really thought they were something special! but visitors had a hard time understanding why they thought so.
And apparently the Christians of Laodicea had become just like the rest of their city. That is why Jesus says:
 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”
In other words, Jesus is introducing himself as the one who knows and proclaims the truth about reality.
 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’”
The Christians of Laodicea have used their wealth to insulate themselves from reality. In those days, Rome called itself ”the Eternal City”, and the Christians of Laodicea have decided to believe the lie. They have fully invested in the system and its values, and they seriously believe they do not need God anymore. For them, the city of Rome is the City of God, and the “City of God” is obviously growing just fine, all they need to do is keep participating in the system and on Judgement Day they will be congratulated on all their wise “Christian” investments.
But here is the truth: “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
They are actually just like the kings of the world who committed adultery with Babyon the Great, exchanging their power for pleasure and the illusion of stability and wealth.
So, Jesus says,  “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”
Jesus wants his friends in Laodicea to accept the reality that Rome is not the City of God, Rome is the enemy of God’s city. Roman gold is beautiful, but it corrupts and enslaves. If they begin to reject Roman gold, Rome will also reject them — but Roman persecution will actually produce God’s gold in their lives as they find themselves refined in the fire of God’s purifying judgements.
Jesus also wants his friends in Laodicea to wear the wedding dress he has sent them, the righteous acts of God’s holy people that John told us about last week. They have been invited as the bride to the wedding supper of the Lamb! But if they think they are already well-dressed enough with their Roman values, and they show up at the feast wearing their own clothes instead of the white dress Jesus sent them…they are not going to be allowed to enter!
In the same way, it would be a mistake for the Christians of Laodicea to trust their city’s medical school to give them the eyes to safely navigate the temptations of this world. Jesus alone is the healer; the Holy Spirit alone is the one who can give us sight.
 “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”
Please, Jesus is saying, do not insulate yourself from from my purifying discipline! Take a good look at the reality of Rome’s corruption, reject it, and accept Roman persecution as proof of how much I love you and want you to grow!
 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.  To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Jesus has invited his friends at Laodicea to be his bride and join him at his wedding feast. But people who live as if every day is a Roman wedding feast are just not going to be hungry for a meal with Jesus. His offer to come in and eat with that person means nothing to a person who thinks they already have everything they need.
The Christians of Laodicea were living in the most urbanised civilization the world had ever seen until that point. But that was not their sin: living in Babylon the Great is not a sin. Their sin was that they had believed the lie. The signs and wonders, the beauty, the power, the economic stability and the wealth that comes from it — the Christians of Laodicea fell for it, and they exchanged their eternal inheritance in Christ for a temporary inheritance in Rome.
And Laodicea is the seventh church on the list, by the way: the last church that Jesus talks to back in Chapter 3. It is the only church that Jesus says nothing good about. He does not say, “You did good until now.” He does not say, “There are a few among you who are still faithful.” All he says is, “be earnest and repent, or I am done with you.” Laodicea is a church that is amost not even a real church any more.
Well, brothers and sisters, just like the Christians of Laodicea, we are living in the most urbanised civilization the world has ever seen: the most centralized, the most orderly and beautiful and — honestly — the most life-giving in some significant ways. Which means we are in more danger of deception than the Laodiceans ever were. And our children are going to face even higher levels of deception as our urbanisation rate rises to 70% over the next generation.
How well are we handling it? Should we be counted among those who, in their heart of hearts, are really thinking, “Hey! I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing?”
…speaking for myself: I don’t know. I know I hope not! But the truth is, I am not as diligent as some of our Christian ancestors have been. Have I come to love my life in the city of Babylon more than I love my life in the city of God? This does worry me. And I think it worries many of you also.
So let’s do this: let’s take Jesus’ command for Laodicea as his command for us. Jesus says, “Be earnest and repent.”
So let us take an earnest look — an honest look — at our urbanising world, at our lives within it, and let us recognize that all of our churches are being increasingly caught up in it. We fail to resist the deception of urbanisation at least as much as we succeed, probably more. And even when we succeed, we often do so only by adopting the values of the deception we are resisting: we centralize our Christian power, we raise our voices, we start making demands — and so we end up joining the very deception we are wanting to resist: when we win, we actually lose.
But then, after our earnest look at reality, let us remember that we can repent. We are actually citizens of a different kind of city, a city where those who lose actually win. In Jesus’ city, in Jesus’ Church, everyone who approaches the throne and admits that they have lost, that they have failed to resist the temptation of centralized power, will be forgiven, and will be given the right to sit with Jesus on his throne, as a queen beside her king, as a bride beside her husband.
If we do these things — if we are earnest and repent — then, in fact, we are proving to ourselves that we cannot be counted among those who say, “I do not need a thing.” As long as we keep turning to our Saviour and saying, “I need you!” then — obviously — we do need a thing. And we will receive it.
So, in closing here: we live in the most urbanised generation that has ever existed, which means we are facing more seduction and deception than any previous generation. However, we are not called to physically leave, not until the day we hear that voice from heaven calling, “Come out of her, my people!” Only then will we go.
But in the meantime, we have been given white robes to wear, decentralized righteous deeds that are designed to set us apart from this rapidly centralizing world, and this dress entitles us to call out to our bridegroom as many times as we need to! until the day when we will all sit down together at the wedding supper of the Lamb.
“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”